We live in an age where information can be shared rapidly, and to an incredible amount of people in a matter of seconds. It can be difficult to remember that in some environments, confidentiality is imperative to business operations. In fact, failure to secure private information can lead to loss of clients, or even legal action.
If you work or run a business in such an environment, it’s possible to secure client information without feeling imprisoned by such sensitive information. Here are some strategies you can use in your office design to better facilitate confidentiality.
Create a private floor plan
Just because you work in an environment that handles private information, doesn’t mean you need to work in a “cube farm.” You can keep an open atmosphere as long as information is being properly contained from those coming and going to your workplace.
The important thing is to consider what kind of information clients are able to view, whether in the lobby or other areas.
You can keep a lid on confidential information by arranging the reception area in a way that makes it more difficult for clients or vendors to see confidential paperwork, or overhear private details and other client names from phone or face-to-face conversations. For example, you might separate the reception and waiting areas, either in different rooms, or across one room if working with a lot of space.
If you have an open floor plan, there are many sound-dampening acoustic wall panels that can be installed between those areas. With either arrangement, wall panels can be used to separate different reception desk areas, like the check-in and consultation areas in medical offices.
Keep confidential material out of sight
If you can’t do much about your floor plan, do your best to keep all confidential material out of line of site. You can make use of private mailboxes, file folders, and cabinets, instead of leaving information on open counters. This is especially true if you run a clinic and often have prescriptions left out to sign, or supplements waiting to be picked up.
Another way of keeping information out of site is by paying attention to the devices you use to view or send information. Are there any monitors in view that could have client information displayed? Can visitors see any documents lying on your fax machines or printers? If a client catches a glimpse of someone else’s information, they might doubt whether you’re able to keep their information secure.
Provide a place for confidential discussions
Open floor plans are popular for collaborative work, but if you run a business with say, an HR department, you’ll need a space for private conversations. When choosing a space for this, it’s best to have it away from a lot of foot traffic if possible, in a place that feels sincerely private. This should also be the case if you handle confidential material with clients, such as legal or health topics.
Keep information stored in a secured area
Clients will feel better knowing their information is stored in a secure environment. All confidential documents should be kept in locked file cabinets or rooms accessible only to those who have a business “need-to-know.” Many reception desks are made with locked drawers that can be used for storing confidential documents during daily processes, but small cabinets can also be used behind reception areas.
Consider how acoustics work in your space
An important part of achieving a confidential workspace is making sure the acoustics are appropriate for the work area. The U.S. General Services Administration recently published a comprehensive guide to acoustics in the workplace which discusses the necessity of having speech privacy for confidential interactions and work processes.
‘Acoustical comfort’ is achieved when the workplace provides appropriate acoustical support for interaction and confidentiality. There are a few different ways that you can achieve non-intrusive noise and speech privacy. One way is through.
- Absorption: This includes carpets and acoustical ceilings. Another way is
- Blocking and sound masking: This is done using walls, panels, partitions, and screens.
For the best results, a combination of these strategies is recommended.
By taking these pointers into considerations in your design, you can set up a confidential work environment without feeling suppressed. Along with the tools you use for securing information, having staff trained in handling and discussing confidential material will increase your office’s ability to handle private information with greater success.